Guest Blogger Tina Aguilar teaches Humanities and Cultural Studies at Brookhaven College School of the Arts.
Earlier this year, I looked into the architecture and public art of the Lochwood Branch Library and spoke with sculptor Rex Kare about placing his art in a library. David Rathvon, Facilities Coordinator with the Dallas Public Library system, assisted Rex with this project and brings into focus another human layer of the intricacy and profound work of the City of Dallas Public Art Program – a wide web of civic advocates who work on behalf of the citizens of Dallas to enhance our quality of life. “Rex worked smoothly with the library, and his willingness to give us what we wanted made it a strong experience,” Rathvon says. “He looked at the space, and because he has a pretty broad range of skill he was able to create a work that is fluid and guides patrons through the building.”
Recently, Kare installed the larger sculpture and shared his concept:
Tina Aguilar: This sculpture is larger than the entrance creation and spans across the sky of the library. Can you tell me about this final phase for your project? How did you decide what to create and where to place it?
Rex Kare: This last work, like the entryway work, is made of urethane strands. It has the same paperlike qualities, and it too has writing on it. But instead of poetry, I decided on representing writing systems from different parts of the world. The ribbons weave in and out of each other as the sculpture moves from one end of the library towards the large bay of windows. On each strand, there is a different writing system. I chose the main room because of two things. Firstly, this is the main room of the library. This is the main space where people find their books. Secondly, the tall, sloping ceiling rising high towards a very large set of windows provides a perfect canvas for a sculptural installation. The natural light coming from the windows during the day and the offset lighting during the evening provide for excellent illumination of the work. This was a very large piece, spanning roughly 40 feet in length. I knew it had to be big. The space it fills is pretty expansive, measuring somewhere close to 100 feet in length with a very high sloping ceiling.
T.A.: You are very sensitive to your environment. What about the installation design? How did it feel to work with the architecture in general?
R.K.: This was a matter of balance. Designing the work to fit in such a space required me to be concerned with the proportion of the work to its space, in terms of its size, its color and the movement it created in the air above the stacks. It needed to be visible, yet unobtrusive, engaging, yet not distracting. I undertook the design of the sculptures for this library with the sense that what I create must compliment the spaces occupied, not overwhelm them. Considering the architectural design was an enjoyable experience. I had the opportunity to really attempt to strike a good balance between making a strong statement with my work, while still integrating the work into its surroundings.
T.A.: I am fascinated with the linguistic threads of your sculpture. Why language, and how did you decide on the total number? Where did you do most of your research?
R.K.: Written language made sense for the sculpture’s setting. Aside from speaking, it is how we can communicate, share ideas and record our history. It has become essential to the fabric of a culture and a community. And it is because of libraries that we have access to this wealth of information. I refrained from portraying any poetry or famous sayings, because I feel that the alphabet, the foundation of writing, was strong enough to stand on its own. Also, the act of writing itself, and the various calligraphic styles are already so beautiful. My research began at the library exclusively. I needed to learn about the history of writing systems, how and why we arrived at the modern writing systems we use today. Once I came up with a general list of the languages, I turned to the internet to find samples of the various writing systems that I could use to produce the images on the strands. At first I wanted to portray an abbreviated version of the evolution of writing, but I very quickly realized that it was a physical impossibility. There was just too much (even abbreviated) that would need to be represented in order for it to make chronological sense. The sculpture would have to be way too big for the space it would occupy. So I moved my focus to choosing modern writing systems that best represented the broad diversity of the many languages around the world. Due to the scale of the last piece and its proportion to its surroundings, I made the decision to stop at 20. This meant I had to chose as best as I could writing systems that represented as many languages from around the world as possible.
T.A.: The library encourages an interactive experience with the public and the evolution of a viewer’s experience crosses countries, art forms and time. What do you hope viewers walk away with as they explore the library and your artwork?
R.K.: I hope that this work may spur some curiosity and exploration with its viewers, maybe to look up the languages they see portrayed on the sculpture. What better place to do the research? And I hope they feel that the works are relevant to the spaces they occupy – that they are good reflections of the function and form of the library and its community.
T.A.: What are you working on next?
R.K.: I am still working on a series of stained glass windows for a parish in Round Rock, Texas, that was started a couple years ago. But, also, I am about to begin a series of figurative paintings for a private client, as well as some hopefully for a future exhibition.